One of the early HBO Dramas, this fast-paced dramedy focused on the lives and loves at the Oswald State Penitentiary, colloquially known as "OZ." The catalyst for the series' action was the arrival of fresh-faced and idealistic prisoner Tobias Beecher, who was determined to convince his fellow inmates to stop treating the prison's name ironically, and instead view it as a challenge to live up to. After initial skepticism from other inmates, Beecher won them over by performing a musical number at the prison talent show while dressed as Judy Garland. Touchingly, Beecher's cellmate, Vern Schillinger, helped him procure the supplies needed for the performance.
Recurring plotlines included the Kellerman-Beecher-Schillinger love triangle and the UST between Ryan O'Reilly and Dr. Gloria Nathan. Critics agree the show hit its creative high point when it began incorporating musical montages sung by the white supremacists and the priest, Father Mukada. Sadly, show creator Tom Fontana never greenlighted a duet between the neo-Nazis and the clergy.
Many of the actors from OZ moved to Law & Order: SVU where they proceeded to play the same characters. Of particular interest is Christopher Meloni's portrayal of Det. Chris Keller and J.K. Simmons' portrayal of the psychotic psychologist Vern Schillinger.